The 3rd Iron Man film (after the 2008 & 2010 films) is also a follow-up to The Avengers
(2012), being Robert Downey, Jr's 4th time, not counting cameos, as the edgy genius Tony Stark and ironclad hero. He seems to also be the narrator of the story - it begins with a flashback to 1999, when Stark first encountered the needy other scientific genius named Killian (Guy Pearce). Stark, being even more of a flippant jerk back then, rejected Killian's proposal and humiliated him, in an otherwise forgettable one-night encounter. But, this little incident returns to haunt Stark as the film progresses. Stark is a bit traumatized over the events in The Avengers
, in which he nearly died and much of NYC was destroyed. It was also one of Iron Man's most heroic moments, but maybe Stark isn't quite the stolid hero that his fellow Avengers are.
Stark has busied himself with building multiple suits of armor, sort of building an ever larger iron shield around himself, and this is causing friction between him and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Meanwhile, a terrorist group led by some strange fanatic calling himself the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has the USA intelligence community puzzled and stymied; the Mandarin sends these weird public video messages to warn and taunt everyone, eventually directing one at the U.S. President (William Sadler). Suddenly, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is the latest victim of one of these terrorist attacks, getting seriously injured. Stark, perhaps indulging his own immaturity, sends his own video message back at the Mandarin; in response, Stark's home is destroyed. Stark ends up briefly teaming with a local kid in a small town to make his plans; he's attacked by the Mandarin's superhuman agents. These agents, it turns out, are the beneficiaries of Killian's Extremis virus, a concoction which grants the subject super-strength and instant regenerative abilities. It doesn't always work - some subjects become overheated and blow up. It all culminates in a massive battle on an old oil tanker, involving the many iron suits, the superhuman terrorists, War Machine (Don Cheadle), the President, Stark, Potts and the real main super-villain.
Most of the film is a feint: the Mandarin is not who he seems; Killian, of course, is not who he seems; the Vice President (Miguel Ferrer) is not who he seems; in the end, even Pepper Potts is not who she seems. It all comes across as very clever but maybe a bit too cute and smug for its own good. The Mandarin was actually Iron Man's primary foe in the comic books, introduced way back in 1964 in Tales of Suspense
#50. Besides being a genius himself, he had these 10 alien rings on his fingers which projected incredible and varied power, and he also had superhuman ability in karate. Despite being a great adversary in the books, the character was deemed too politically incorrect in the 21st century, perhaps too much a caricature of a Chinese villain, so he was turned into some kind of silly fake for the film - was that the proper way to go? Who can say; it depends on how clever the reveal is to various people. The final battle does have some punch and is unusual in involving Potts. The main villain at the end also isn't too shabby. But, much of the middle act meanders too much and is slow, and the whole subplot with the little kid/ally has a very cliched, old feel to it. Iron Man returned in the Avengers sequel-2015. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10Iron Trivia
: perhaps elevated by the huge success of The Avengers
, this film had the 2nd-biggest 1st weekend of all (until the Avengers sequel in 2015 when it moved down to 3rd place); it exceeded the gross of the 1st two Iron Man films; cameo by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner at the end credits, when it's revealed that Stark had been relating the events to him all this time; Stan Lee cameos as a judge at a beauty pageant